Natasha Tat University of Guelph-Humber
Natasha Tat
“We’re here to listen. We’re here to help. We’re here to support you and help you understand what’s going on. Anxiety doesn’t have to be the villain in your story. You just have to learn to understand what it’s trying to tell you so you can build compassion and empathy for yourself by finding those coping strategies; by finding ways to make it less daunting for you.”

Meet University of Guelph-Humber Ambassador Natasha Tat

In September 2020, Natasha Tat found herself in the right place.

 

Starting her four-year Psychology program at the University of Guelph-Humber in Etobicoke, the Mississauga resident, who admits to “always being nervous in big groups,” was in a comfortable setting at the relatively small post-secondary institution.

 

Not one to sit idle for long, Natasha took the initiative that first year and, despite COVID-induced restrictions, looked for ways to integrate herself in school life. She managed to do just that…and that’s when Cam’s Kids came up on her radar.

 

“One of the (Cam’s Kids) members reached out to me and said ‘I have this club that I started. You seem like a good fit. Would you like to apply?’” recalls Natasha, who promptly did her research, browsing the foundation’s website to learn more.

 

“It (her school’s Cam’s Kids team) was a small group…about five (members) at the time. I thought it was a comfortable way to talk about my anxiety and help my peers as well, so I went through the application process, did the interview and got in.”

Two years on, the third-year student is very much still in, her experience as an Ambassador has brought her to the next level as a co-Team Lead helping guide what has evolved into an 11-member Cam’s Kids presence at Guelph-Humber.    

Natasha’s willingness to help others overcome anxiety and associated mental health issues is rooted in her personal experience of being raised by parents from a traditional background.  

“Mental health was never talked about at home, even though the signs and symptoms (of struggling) were there all the time. There was a lot of conflict and fighting but we didn’t address how that impacted my sister and I.”

“I felt a lot of physical symptoms. My heart would beat really fast, my palms would get sweaty and my whole body would get tight. I thought ‘Oh my gosh, there’s something wrong with me.’ I didn’t really understand what was going on.”

 

“As I got older, there were the cognitive aspects of that…overthinking things and not being able to sleep. That rumination was really bad for me. And there were other cognitive pieces like thinking the worse and trying to predict the future…all kinds of negative thought patterns.”

 

From that, Natasha began her “own journey of therapy. That helped me realize what those body symptoms and thinking patterns really meant. It’s not just your body being weird. It’s trying to tell you something. That’s important to know because it helps you be more empathetic toward yourself and also toward other people when they present symptoms.”

In her role with Cam’s Kids, Natasha’s goal is to create a safe and comfortable space for students who acknowledge they’re overwhelmed and have feelings, both physical and mental, that are similar to what she has experienced.

 

“Along with my co-Team Lead, I do my best to make sure we have a supportive environment,” she says.

 

“Instead of doing just email communication, I switched us to a TEAMS chat. I feel that’s a bit more comfortable for us…a bit more personal. I can send a quick message to check in on how someone is doing or say things like ‘Good luck with mid terms.' There is definitely a lot more interaction this way.”

 

For Natasha, the deciding factor in getting involved with Cam’s Kids was, and remains, the peer-helping-peer model. That’s something she experienced firsthand in high school when she facilitated workshops as part of a program that gave students an outlet to talk freely about relationships, anxiety, depression, substance use and a range of other challenging topics. In addition, she mentored peers one-on-one, helping them meet emotional and social challenges.

 

“I know, from my own experience, that it’s hard to go to an adult, like a (school) staff member, and say ‘I’m struggling,” says Natasha, noting Cam’s Kids’ slogan – Supporting Young People Struggling With Anxiety – grabbed her attention and kept it.

 

‘Turning to a friend who has gone through the same thing as you is a lot more relatable.”

 

Ratified as an official school club, the Guelph-Humber team had a presence at the campus club fair in early September and, as of this writing, was in the process of planning a Halloween-themed event for the end of October. But, says Natasha, there’s a challenge that needs addressing and the sooner, the better.

 

“Most of the team members are in their fourth (and final) year,” she says, adding the goal is “to get as many new members as we can.” That aside, the team’s mission is a familiar one but one that is tried, tested and true.

 

“We’re here to listen. We’re here to help. We’re here to support you and help you understand what’s going on. Anxiety doesn’t have to be the villain in your story. You just have to learn to understand what it’s trying to tell you so you can build compassion and empathy for yourself by finding those coping strategies; by finding ways to make it less daunting for you.”  

 

     

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